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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Family | Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo, Tommy Lee Jones | Review

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3sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE Judy Thorburn

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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE

 

The Family

The Family “way” takes on a whole new meaning in director Luc Besson's new offbeat, dark comedy produced by Martin Scorcese.  No one is pregnant, although the family at center of this tale “delivers” some brutal yet amusing shenanigans as they attempt to make a new life for themselves in a foreign country far from their Brooklyn roots.

Relocating and going undercover wasn't part of their lifetime plan, but something the Manzoni's were forced to do under the Witness Protection Program after former Mob boss Giovanni Manzoni (Robert DiNiro) snitched on his fellow mobsters and a $20 million bounty was put on his head.

Assuming new identities as The Blakes, Giovanni, his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), their seventeen year old daughter Belle (Glee's Dianna Agron) and 14 year old son Warren (John D'Leo) settle into their new digs in the quiet, peaceful town of Normandy, France.  Assigned to protect and keeping a watchful eye on them is FBI agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones in typical deadpan mode) and his two assistants (Domenick Lombardozzi and Jimmy Palumbo) who have set up shop in a house across the street.

On the inside, the Manzoni's are a close knit, loving family conveying normal behavior and desires. Giovanni comes across an old portable typewriter and decides to write his memoirs. Maggie loves to cook and leans on her Catholic faith for some guidance, and the pretty, feisty, Belle develops a heavy duty crush on her Math teacher.  But, just as a zebra can't change its stripes, Giovanni (Robert Di Niro) and his wife and kids just can't help but resort to their old violent ways when anyone has the audacity to mess with them. It is a problem that has caused the Manzoni's to pick up and move from one place to another after only a few months.

Although told to assimilate, be discreet, lay low and not makes waves, it is easier said than done once each member of the family starts interacting with the local residents.  Among those who get on their bad side and are forced to reap the consequences are a plumber that shows up late and tries to rip off Giovanni, a grocery owner Maggie overhears talking badly about Americans, a school bully who beats Warren up on his first day at school and a group of male classmates who make the mistake of thinking Belle is a slutty American girl they can have their way with.

Eventually, due to an extremely unlikely (make that preposterous) series of events, the Manzoni's cover is blown and word of their whereabouts reaches the incarcerated, vengeful mafia boss, Don Mimino (Dominic Chianese) who sends out a team of assassins to track them down and wipe them out. Needless to say, this leads to the inevitable showdown resulting in a pile up of bloody, dead bodies.

Portraying a character from the crime underworld is nothing new for DeNiro. It is a walk in the park, and in his comfort zone, but a role that he plays to perfection, be it in a drama or a comedy.  Pfeiffer also returns to familiar territory, having starred decades earlier in Married to the Mob and Scarface. In this role as the devoted mob wife and mother she splendidly conveys the perfect blend of warmth and sweetness with potential dangerous, lethal capabilities. The chemistry between her and DiNiro as a married couple comes across as genuine, natural, and believable. Unfortunately,  I can't say the same about her Brooklyn accent, which is inconsistent and doesn't quite cut it.

While The Family is filled with violence, thankfully there is nothing graphically depicted.   After all, this is a dark comedy meant to spoof mafia themed movies, with the emphasis on being funny.  In fact, one of the most amusing scenes involves reference to Scorcese's mob classic “Goodfellas”.  Regardless of it being totally contrived, the look on DeNiro's face and his behavior in this sequence is a gem.

Despite the narrative faults, the fine cast and off kilter humor are reasons enough to see this film. The Family may not be at the top of my “hit” list,  but at a time when there is so much crap in theaters, it does offer a fair amount of escapist entertainment.

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